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The decision of what to drive isn’t made, yet, but the decision of how to drive is almost entirely separate, anyway. I can start thinking about that in parallel.

Google Maps gives me roughly two routes for land-based travel:

The first–drive straight west for a while, turn right, and go up through Madison, WI, and large portions of Canada–is 4071 miles long. At the speed I plan to drive, that’s roughly 11 days. (Yes, I’m familiar with Hofstadter’s Law. I’m planning for 2 weeks or more.)

The second, going through Seattle (an option I’m considering largely due to the convenience of using US currency and staying in hotel chains I know are pet-friendly for as much of the way as possible), is 4902 miles long. That’s 13 days.

I’d like to take a day or two, in there, to chill, be a tourist, and not really drive anywhere (so, 13 and 15 days, respectively). Where and whether I can depends, a bit, on which path I take, of course. There’s a third option: ferry from Bellingham, which is north of Seattle. As far as I can tell, this is a terrible idea–it’s expensive, takes possibly longer than driving, and … actually, if the trip planner is to be believed, it’s not even possible, unless I leave earlier or drive faster. And the birds would have to stay in the car. The whole time. … No way.

One other possible wrench in this plan is, if my newest Ravelry friend is to be believed, the possibility of snow along the Alaska Highway. Now, looking at historical data for the Yukon, it seems like snow in mid-September is not really a problem. A kind professor tipped me off to the existence of the Milepost, a sort of travel guide for the Alaska Highway–which looks like it stretches into the Yukon, as well–and I don’t see a lot of evidence that snow is of great concern. … I think I may ask an Alaskan librarian for help with this. I know a couple, now, and it’s an excuse to get to know a couple more, right?

If I don’t hate driving by the time I hit Tok, I may go up to Fairbanks and down through Denali. That would be an awesome drive.

Also, this whole thing could be done more efficiently–and would be a whole lot more fun–if someone were able to join me for any leg of the trip. I realize flying back to Pittsburgh from Anchorage is expensive–believe me–but maybe someone wants to go to Wisconsin? Or from Wisconsin to Dawson Creek, BC? … No worries, if not. I’m prepared to do the drive myself, but I figure it can’t hurt to ask.

Last, but not least, I have put in requests for bids from pet shipping companies, for the birds. I don’t think we’re going to deem that especially economical, but who can say?

As always, feel free to leave comments/advice/complaints/suggestions/recipes/lolcats.

We have a Ford Focus. It’s a cute car, and I’ve grown attached to it–actually, it’s a he, and his name is Grover (see?)–but it’s not a car that handles particularly well in winter weather, which Anchorage has more of than Pittsburgh or DC. It’s also not a car we’ve paid off fully. We owe a little more on it than Kelley Blue Book says we can get, trading it in. (Only a little. This month and next month’s payment should bring it down to just about equal, if we make those payments in close enough succession.)

I’d really like to get some sort of AWD/4WD vehicle with a roof rack–the roof rack is more because I want to go canoeing regularly than because of the extra cargo space during the move, but both are definitely considerations. :D Dale wants to make sure it has a trailer hitch, as well, which I agree would probably be good. There are a number of smaller SUVs and crossovers that would work fine, though I’m kind of in love with the Pontiac Vibe and Subaru Forester.

But when do we make the purchase?

Anchorage has no sales tax, but cars there cost a bit more, I’m told. The cheapest thing, if it’s doable, might be to buy a car (new or used–as long as they’ll take the Ford on trade-in) down here, with proof of Anchorage residency (so I’d have to find at least a short-term place to rent up there), so that I can get the PA price and AK lack-of-taxes. There’s kind of a lot of juggling that has to happen, though. And a friend of ours claims you shouldn’t drive a new car day in and day out, the way I would be doing if I bought something and then drove to Alaska…

So maybe I drive Grover up to Alaska. There’s enough space for the birds and some of our stuff–not as much as I’ll want to fit, but that would have been true of even an Escalade (which was never on the table), honestly.

There’s one other wrench in the works of this whole thing: Dale’s not coming up when I do–we have a second car, an old Honda that will probably be purchased by his little brother shortly before Dale boards the plane to Alaska. (So there’s going to be insurance hoop-jumping.) Grover–or, rather, the loan on Grover–is in both of our names. This means, if I understand the law, that I’m not legally authorized to sell that car while I’m up there, since we’re not married. Now, there’s a good chance he’s coming up in December, but that’s well into the winter weather. And he might fly out with Ella the chinchilla in late September–our landlord has been taken in by the exterminator’s anti-small-pet rhetoric and wants all of our pets gone as soon as humanly possible–which would free us up for some car shopping together, but, wow, what a lame way to spend a week’s vacation. I’d rather show him all the cool stuff in town!

I mean, I could just keep the Ford through the winter, live on the bus route (man do I hate buses in winter, though), and time all of my grocery shopping and other trips based on when the roads are plowed. By all reports, they do a fine job of that in the city. And I can get winter tires. It might be all right. We might be able to pay down the rest of the way on this vehicle and buy a new or used 4WD vehicle for next winter.

I’m honestly not sure what’s the best approach. Any thoughts, anyone? (I think I turned off comment moderation, by the way. I hadn’t noticed I had it on! If it still tries to moderate your comments, let it, and I’ll let everything through, while I try to find the right setting… still getting used to WordPress, here. :))

I guess I should explain, a bit, for anybody who isn’t going to be joining this blog from the other blog. I’m moving to Alaska for my first “real” library job–“real,” as in, post-library degree–as a Web Services Librarian at a library in Anchorage (beautiful webpage! I’m so excited!). I went to library school in Pittsburgh largely because Pittsburgh is a place Dale and I know how to live, full of people we know, where Dale got a job–that last point is key! Other library schools were under consideration, but Pitt seemed like the right choice at the time.

It was never really the plan to settle here, which I think makes friends and some family a little frustrated. I did my best, applying to all of the local jobs that sounded worth doing, but I never had my heart set on staying in the area, because it’s such a flooded market, what with 100+ librarians graduating each year (never mind Clarion and Drexel!). I don’t know how firmly Dale hoped for us to stay–hopefully he’ll log in to WordPress and add his thoughts soon–but I know he’s OK with how it’s all turned out.

Anyway, yes, we picked Pittsburgh together, with the understanding that we’d move on to another place–though I’m not sure either of us considered Alaska, specifically, at that point–after graduation. And that’s the process we’re going through now.

I’m getting back toward feeling hopeful and excited. Today’s earlier hesitation has faded, somewhat. It’ll be back, no doubt, but there’s just so much that’s good about this move–not least of which are the awesomeness of the library I’m joining and the beautiful city we’ll get to live in–that it’s hard to focus on the bad for long.

(Multiple posts per day will not be the norm, I promise!)

I’m excited about this job, and I’m excited about living in Anchorage. I really am. And by next post, I’ll get back to talking about that.

But right this second I’m beginning to get a little jittery, I guess, about living so far away from everyone I know. I grew up, went to college, and took my first post-grad-school job in the general vicinity of Virginia and the District of Columbia. Both times I went to graduate school were in Pittsburgh. Other than a summer in China, with a bunch of Americans, including my at-the-time best friend, I’ve never really lived outside of that 5-hour travel bubble. So, as much as I like to think of myself as an independent spirit, I admit, I’m nervous about that first dark winter spent a continent away from my loved ones. Christmas isn’t a super important holiday for me, in general, but this will be my first one spent alone. (I don’t actually think I’ll be alone. People at the library are nice, and probably somebody will take me under their wing. It won’t be entirely the same as the noisy Christmases with my family, but it won’t be this bleak, depressing thing, either.)

I’ll miss my friends. I’ll miss my family–and I do think of Dale’s family as my family, every bit as much as the people I share a blood relation with. I’ll miss Dale, until he gets up there. I’ll even miss Ella the Chinchilla, more than it seems sane to admit.

On the bright side, it’s an adventure, and I do a better job of getting out and exploring when I’m forced to–that is, when I’m on my own–than I do when I have someone else with me. I also do a better job of working longer hours, which I’ll want to do until I really have a grip on all of the things I’ll be working on up there. Dale’s and my inertia add, it turns out. :) Also, I’ll have the birds, and as ornery as they are, they make for good company.

It’s going to be awesome, and I wouldn’t have agreed to move up there if I weren’t in love with the city and the library–and if I didn’t think I could make good friendships with my coworkers. But I would feel dishonest if I didn’t admit to my misgivings.

Hi, I’m Coral, and, in a week or so–when I have finished library school–I will begin preparing to move to Alaska with my boyfriend, three birds, and a chinchilla. This includes selling most of my belongings, maybe buying a 4WD car (or maybe not), and driving across the country. Undecided: am I taking the birds with me or finding a way to ship them? (Probably the former.) Am I driving the short way, or going all the way to Seattle and trying to take a ferry? Is Dale coming in December or waiting until spring?

These questions remain unanswered. But if you’d like to follow along with Dale and me while we make these decisions and watch my progress as I drive across the country, feel free to follow this blog!

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July 2009